Barking for a makeover
Butte Humane Society is in the running for a $1 million prize
A tour of the Butte Humane Society will tell you exactly what shelter staff will: The place is in need of a makeover. The left wing, which houses sick animals and those that have been recently surrendered, dates to the 1940s; the right wing is newer, but still is 20 years old.
Perhaps the most striking thing about BHS is the vast number of outdoor kennels. Even during the winter months, if the shelter is full—it typically holds about 200 pets on any given day—more than half of the dogs are kept outside.
Shelter Executive Director Heather Schoeppach (along with the rest of her staff) is optimistic about a makeover contest online. The site—zootoo.com—contains animal-shelter profiles, maintained by the shelters themselves, and offers incentives for supporters to join and keep up their own profiles and journals. For each new member subscribing in support of BHS, the shelter gets 50 points. More points are awarded for uploading a profile picture, writing a journal entry or posting a review of a shelter. Early this week, BHS was in fourth place.
“I’m pretty excited that we’re way up there,” said Kim Thompson, shelter manager. “We definitely need it.”
For the first round, which ends March 13, shelters rack up points online. Zootoo advisers will visit the top 20 point-earners and, based on information gathered through tours and interviews with directors and shelter staff, whittle the list down to 10. Then, in a grand finale, Americans get the chance to vote. The winner receives up to $1 million to refurbish its digs.
If BHS were to win the grand prize, Schoeppach imagines the shelter expanding to two stories to accommodate more indoor facilities for the animals, as well as administrative offices, which are currently housed in trailers.
“It would be a dream come true,” she said. “We are so limited by the facility. We are constantly plagued by little electrical and plumbing problems. And the heating and ventilation systems are crap.
“We could have separate entrances for strays and adoptions, we could provide a room for us and the pets to get to know people, and we could provide better living areas for all the animals,” she continued, wistfully.
Even if BHS doesn’t win the million bucks, it could take home $5,000 by making the top 20. Second place gets $50,000, third place $25,000 and the rest of the top 10, $10,000 each. The top online point-getter gets a $10,000 bonus.
Those interested in signing up and showing support for BHS can log onto www.zootoo.com and click on “join zootoo now.” The site will ask for your ZIP code and offer a list of nearby shelters to support.
“I think we’re a really strong candidate,” Thompson said.